Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Loved One: The Motion Picture With Something to Offend Everyone

I have often regarded the Sixties as a Golden Age for broad, satirical, and very often irreverent comedies. It was the decade of such films as One, Two, Three (1961), Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964),  What's New, Pussycat? (1965), Morgan – A Suitable Case for Treatment (1966), and The President's Analyst (1967).  These films shared several characteristics among themselves, including a fast pace (the jokes often came fast, furious, and non-stop), very broad comedy (there was sometimes very little subtlety to them), and often very dark humour. What is more, in many of these films it seemed as if no topic was off limits as far as being lampooned.  Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb dealt with nuclear holocaust. The President's Analyst attacked everything from politics to psychoanalysis to the telephone company. Last night Turner Classic Movies showed one of the best of these satires from the Sixties on their series Second Looks: Tony Richardson's The Loved One (1965).

The Loved One was very loosely based on Evelyn Waugh's 1948 satirical novel of the same name.  The Loved One actually owes its existence to another one of Mr. Waugh's novels, Brideshead Revisited. It was in February and March of 1947 that MGM brought Evelyn Waugh and his wife to Hollywood for negotiations for the film rights to Brideshead Revisited. MGM and Evelyn Waugh never came to an agreement over Bridehead Revisited, and it would not be adapted as a feature film until 2008. Mr. Waugh's time in Hollywood would not be entirely wasted, however, as while there he toured Hollywood's famous cemetery, Forest Lawn Memorial Park.  This tour, combined with his other experiences in California, provided the basis for The Loved One, a short novel that lampooned both the American funeral industry and the American film industry. The book not only proved very successful in the United Kingdom, but, much to Evelyn Waugh's chagrin, the United States as well.

With such success it was perhaps natural that The Loved One would eventually be adapted as a feature film. In fact, the novel was very nearly adapted by Luis Buñuel in the Fifties, who even wrote a screenplay with blacklisted writer Hugo Butler (who used the pen name Philip A. Roll for the script).  Nothing ever came of Luis Buñuel's plans for an adaptation of The Loved One,  and eventually the film rights were bought by cinematographer Haskell Wexler and producer John Calley.

In many ways it was perhaps just as well as Luis Buñuel never succeeded in bringing The Loved One to the big screen, as the time seemed to be right in the mid-Sixties for a comedy lampooning the American funeral industry. After all, it was only two years before the release of the film adaptation of The Loved One that Jessica Mitford's controversial exposé on American funeral homes, The American Way of Death, had been published. Miss Mitford's book sent shock waves throughout the American funeral industry and stirred up a good deal of controversy as a result. It ultimately resulted in significant reforms in the American funeral industry. At the same time dark and irreverent comedies had become the fashion on both sides of the Atlantic. After all, it was only in 1961 that Billy Wilder had sent up both the Cold War and Coca-Cola  with One, Two, Three, and only in 1964 that Stanley Kubrick had made light of the atomic bomb with Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. A black comedy about funerals was then very much a part of the Zeitgeist.

To direct their adaptation of The Loved One, producers Haskell Wexler and John Calley brought in Tony Richardson. Tony Richardson was one of Britain's hottest directors at the time, having already directed Look Back in Anger (1959), A Taste of Honey (1961), and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962) . His latest film, Tom Jones (1963), was both a financial and critical success. It swept the Oscars, taking awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Writing--Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, and Best Music, Score --Substantially Original. It was largely due to the success of Tom Jones that Tony Richardson was given complete creative control over The Loved One. Tony Richardson's goal in adapting The Loved One was to imbue it with the latest, cutting edge, and often barbed humour while retaining the essential Englishness of Evelyn Waugh's original novel. To provide the Englishness  Mr. Richardson hired English novelist Christopher Isherwood (author of such novels as Goodbye to Berlin and Prater Violet). To provide the biting satire Mr. Richardson hired Terry Southern (author of the novels Candy and The Magic Christian, and the screenwriter of Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb).

As might be expected The Loved One drew not only upon Evelyn Waugh's novel, but also upon Jessica Mitford's The American Way of Death, while taking its style of black comedy largely from Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. And while much of the plot of the original novel remains, Messrs. Isherwood and Southern added several new subplots not found in the novel. At the same time the satire of the screenplay grew even more outrageous than that of Mr. Waugh's novel. According to Jessica Mitford in her essay "Something to Offend Everyone (the essay is available in Miss Mitford's collection Poison Penmanship: The Gentle Art of Muckraking), the film seemed as if it was offending a number of people before it was even finished. Chief among these was Evelyn Waugh himself, who even went so far as to have his agent draft a letter calling for Tony Richardson to be replaced as the film's director. This request went ignored by MGM and Filmways. Not only was Evelyn Waugh offended, but so apparently was the City of Los Angeles. One of its officials asked that the name "Los Angeles" never be mentioned in the film. The Interment Association of California, still stinging from the publication of The American Way of Death, was understandably nervous about the film.

What in the beginning was an adaptation of a short novel eventually grew into a black comedy film of nearly epic proportions. Christopher Isherwood and Terry Southern expanded considerably upon Evelyn Waugh's novels with several subplots that never appeared in the book. What is more, several cameos would be added that would not only increase the film's running time, but also its budget. Indeed, The Loved One may well have more cameos than any film short of It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963). Appearing in various roles throughout the film are James Coburn, Tab Hunter, Liberace, Robert Morley, Barbara Nichols, Chick Hearn, Bernie Kopell, Lionel Strander, Alan Napier, Reta Shaw, Milton Berle, and even Filmways executive Martin Ransohoff. Surprisingly not every cameo made it into the finished product--both Jayne Mansfield and Ruth Gordon's scenes were cut.

The Loved One was promoted in its posters and its trailers as "The Motion Picture With Something to Offend Everyone.," and at the time it seemed as if had very well succeeded. Reportedly, several MGM executives walked out of the first studio screening of The Loved One in disgust. For the most part critics did not seem to be as offended by The Loved One as some of the top brass at MGM were, but many were not exactly amiable to the film either. Robert Hatch, writing in The Nation, charged that Christopher Isherwood and Terry Southern had "...turned Evelyn Waugh's brief, witty, tough attack upon American mores, as exemplified in the country's funeral rites, into a loose lipped, leering, cute-boys-together campground." The critic for The Hollywood Reporter said of The Loved One that "...its sick, sick message may only be taken to heart and purse by younger audiences." In Variety it was said that The Loved One was " way out--frequently beyond all bounds of propriety in an attempt at brilliance--that its appeal probably will be restricted to circles which like their entertainment weird." Not all critics disliked The Loved One. Pauline Kael wrote of The Loved One, " Although the picture has lost its centre (the poet-played by Robert Morse-has become as quirky and crazy as everybody else), some of the fragments are good and jagged. This botched picture is a triumphant disaster-a sinking ship that makes it to port because everybody on board is too giddy to panic." Arthur Knight of The Saturday Review was even more generous, writing, "The Loved One is gallows humour, which may not be up to everyone's taste. But it is certainly the longest and boldest step up from conventional film fare ever to come from a major American studio." The reaction of audiences at the time to The Loved One may have been far worse than that of any MGM executives or film critics. They stayed away from the film in droves. It came away from the box office with a meagre $2 million.

While critics in 1965 sometimes reviled The Loved One and audiences at the time ignored it, over the years its reputation has improved considerably. Indeed, on paper it seems as if it is a film that should not work. The Loved One is a black comedy based on a work by Evelyn Waugh that adds several more sub-plots to that of the original novel, includes more cameos than any film except perhaps It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, and moves at a clip that would put a Wabash freight train to shame. Yet I think most people who watch the film (at the very least those who love Sixties black comedies) will agree that it does indeed work. Much of this is due to Christopher Isherwood and Terry Southern's script, whose humour hits many more times than it misses. True to the advertisements that The Loved One was "The Motion Picture With Something to Offend Everyone," Messrs. Isherwood and Southern leave very few stones unturned. Not only does The Loved One attack the funeral industry and Hollywood (much as Evelyn Waugh's original novel did), but also religion, Oedipal complexes, overeating, the rich, the military, the space programme, and television among many other things. Even when The Loved One does go off track (which it does from time to time), it remains a very funny and very enjoyable film.

Of course, it is not simply its script that makes The Loved One so enjoyable, but also its sterling cast. Jonathan Winters gives what may be his best performances ever, in the dual roles of the sinister Reverend Wilbur Glenworthy (the owner of  gigantic cemetery and mortuary service Whispering Glades) and his jealous brother Henry (who runs the Happier Hunting Ground, a much less prestigious pet cemetery). Anjanette Comer does a sublime job as the ethereal Aimee Thanatogenous, actually making a girl fascinated by death seem somehow oddly appealing. Besides Jonathan Winters it is perhaps Rod Steiger who gives the film's best performance as Mr. Joyboy. Cast against type as an effete mama's boy and mortician, Mr. Steiger excels in the role. There are those many who think that Robert Morse was miscast as English protagonist Dennis Barlow, but I have to disagree. While his English accent tends to come and go in the film, he plays the role with such sincerity that he is convincing nonetheless.

The Loved One also benefits from Tony Richardson's direction as well as Haskell Wexler's stark black and white cinematography. Watching the film it is rather hard to believe that the two men actually fought for much of the production. While both agreed that they wanted the film shot in high contrast black and white (as it ultimately was), they constantly disagreed on how to go about it. Regardless, it remains one of the best shot monochrome films of the Sixties.

Of course, the obvious question is perhaps whether The Loved One still possesses the same power to shock and offend that it had in 1965. After the number of black comedies that were released in the wake of Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb and ever since, I rather suspect modern audiences would not find The Loved One nearly as shocking and certainly not as offensive as audiences had in 1965. That having been said, one should not let the fact that The Loved One was released in 1965 fool one into thinking it is a mild walk through the park. The Loved One still packs a punch and in many instances can shock even the most hardened black comedy fan, even those with 21st Century sensibilities. As to being offensive, while I didn't find The Loved One offensive, I have to wonder that many might not still find it so today. After all, the film tips over some cows that are still considered very sacred today.

Rebuked in its day (even by Evelyn Waugh, author of the original novel) and ignored by audiences, The Loved One has become something of a cult film. It is also one that should be regarded as something of a classic. The Loved One holds up quite well when compared to many of the other black comedies of the Sixties and perhaps better than most of them. It is certainly far funnier than much of what passes as comedy today and it is certainly far stronger stuff than much of what is released today. It may no longer be "the Motion Picture With Something to Offend Everyone," but it is still one that will make many people laugh non-stop.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Bassist Trevor Bolder Passes On

Trevor Bolder, who played bass with David Bowie's band The Spiders from Mars and with Uriah Heep, died 21 May 2013 at the age of 62. The cause was pancreatic cancer.

Trevor Bolder was born in Hull, East Yorkshire on 9 June 1950. He came from a family of musicians, and in high school played coronet in the band. He was active in the Yorkshire rhythm and blues scene as a young man. In 1970 he joined guitarist Mark Ronson's band. Mr. Ronson has played for years with local Yorkshire band The Rats. In 1971 Trevor Bolder, Mark Ronson, and former Rats drummer Mick "Woody" Woodmansey as part of David Bowie's backing band for his fourth album, Hunky Dory (released in 1971). This band would become known as The Spiders from Mars for David Bowie's next and possibly most famous album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972). Although no longer called "The Spiders From Mars," the band would more or less remain in tact for David Bowie's next two albums, Aladdin Sane (1973) and Pin Ups (1973).  Following Pin Ups David Bowie moved to the United States and parted ways with The Spiders from Mars.

After The Spiders from Mars, Trevor Bolder played on Mark Ronson's albums Slaughter On 10th Avenue (1974) and Play Don't Worry (1975). In 1976 Trevor Bolder joined Uriah Heep, replacing former bassist  John Wetton. He made his debut with Uriah Heep on the album Firefly (1977) and appeared on their next three albums: Innocent Victim (1977), Fallen Angel (1978), and Conquest (1980). Eventually Uriah Heep began to fall apart to the point that only Trevor Bolder and founding member Mick Box remained. Unfortunately, initial attempts to reform Uriah Heep met with little success. It was for that reason that Trevor Bolder accepted an offer to join Wishbone Ash. He only played with Wishbone Ash for one album, Twin Barrels Burning. Afterwards he rejoined Uriah Heep, remaining with them for the rest of his career.

Trevor Bolder was quite simply one of the best bassists to ever live. If the rhythm sections of David Bowie's albums Hunky Dory, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, Aladdin Sane, and Pin Ups are particularly strong, it is largely because of Trevor Bolder.  As a bassist Mr. Bolder did not simply play accompaniment. His bass was always as important part of the songs on which he played as the lead vocals or lead guitars. When you listened to songs on which Trevor Bolder played, you knew it was Trevor Bolder playing bass. He was a talent who has rarely been matched and almost never surpassed.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Richard Thorp R.I.P.

Richard Thorp, who appeared in the classic film The Dam Busters (1955) and was on the soap opera Emmerdale for decades, died 22 May 2013 at the age of 81.

Richard Thorp was born on 2 January 1932 in Purley, Surrey. He made his film debut in Melody in the Dark in 1949. He was cast as Squadron Leader H. E. Maudslay in The Dam Busters, primarily because of his resemblance to the real life Henry Maudslay (who died in the raid), after trying out for a smaller role. For the remainder of the Fifties Mr. Thorp appeared in such films as The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1957), There's Always a Thursday (1957), The Good Companions (1957), and The Last Train (1960). In 1957 he was cast in the role of Dr. John Rennie on the TV programme Emergency – Ward 10, a role that he played until 1967. He was also a regular on the show All Aboard in 1958. He aso guest starred on the programmes Life with the Lyons, Overseas Press Club--Exclusive, The Adventures of Robin Hood, and 4 Just Men.

In the Sixties Mr. Thorp was a regular on the series 24-Hour Call, Watch the Birdies, and Market on Honey Lane. He guest starred on such television shows as Danger Man, Call Oxbridge 2000, The Edgar Wallace Mystery Theatre, The Avengers, Maupassant, No Hiding Place, and Love Story. He appeared in the films Bitter Harvest (1963), Mystery Submarine (1963), The Iron Maiden (1963), and Sword of Lancelot (1963).

In the Seventies Richard Thorp guest starred on such TV shows as Timeslip, A Family at War, Thirty Minute's Worth And Mother Makes Three, Public Eye, and  Whodunnit.  He was a regular on the shows Crossroads and The Cedar Tree. He appeared in the film Suburban Wives (1972). In the Eighties he guest starred on To the Manor Born and Strangers. In 1982 he was cast as Alan Turner on Emmerdale. He remained with the show until this year.

Although given his years spent on Emmerdale there can be no doubt Richard Thorp will be best remembered as  farm manager Alan Turner, he was a versatile actor who played a wide variety of parts over the years. On The Avengers episode "School for Traitors" he played a rather unfortunate researcher. On the Danger Man episode "The Island" he appeared as a security officer.  He was a bit of a heart throb in the late Fifties and early Sixties, playing Dr. John Rennie on the medical soap Emergency – Ward 10. While he played Alan Turner on Emmerdale for three decades, his career actually consisted of much, much more.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Late Great Ray Manzarek of The Doors

Ray Manzarek, keyboardist for The Doors, died on 20 May 2013 at the age of 74. The cause was bile duct cancer.

 Ray Manzarek was born Raymond Manczarek Jr. (he later simplified the spelling of his surname by dropping the "c") on 12 February 1939 in Chicago, Illinois. He attended Everett Elementary School and St. Rita High School in Chicago. Growing up he studied piano. He also played basketball, but abandoned the sport when his coach insisted he play guard when he wanted to play forward or centre. He attended DePaul University and graduated with a degree in economics.

In 1962 Mr. Mazarek moved to Los Angeles to attend the film school at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). There he joined his brother Rick and Jim's band Rick & the Ravens as vocalist and occasional pianist. It was in 1965 that Ray Manzarek met Jim Morrison, who also attended UCLA. The two shared a number of interests in both music and art. Eventually Mr. Manzarek invited Mr. Morrison to sing with Rick & the Ravens at one of their performances. It was not long afterwards that he joined the band. John Denismore, who had been the drummer with The Psychedelic Rangers, joined Rick & the Ravens in August 1965. It was this line up that recorded a demon on 2 September 1965 that included songs that would later be played by The Doors (most notably "Hello, I Love You" and "Moonlight Drive"). Rick and Jim Manczarek were disappointed with the lack of response from the record industry that the demo received. They also did not particularly care for Jim Morrison's new songs. The two then left the band, as well as Patricia Sullivan, leaving Ray as the last of the Manczareks as a member. Guitarist Robby Krieger, who had been playing with The Psychedelic Rangers, was later recruited into the band. Of course, with Rick Macnzarek no longer a member of the band, the group needed a new name. It was Jim Morrison who suggested the name "The Doors," taken from the title of Aldous Huxley's book The Doors of Perception.

In early 1966 The Doors, now consisting of the classic line up of Ray Manzarek, Jim Morrison, John Densmore, and Robby Krieger, began playing regularly at the night club London Fog in Los Angeles. It was not long before they became the house band of the Whisky a Go Go. Love vocalist Arthur Lee suggested to Elektra Records president Jac Holzman that he go see The Doors perform at the Whisky a Go Go. Mr. Holzman did so on 10 August 1966. He saw more sets of the band with producer Paul Rothschild and The Doors were signed on 18 August 1966. Despite having scored a record contract, The Doors would not remain at the Whisky a Go Go long. They were fired after a performance of "The End," complete with the "F" word.

The Doors recorded their eponymous first album from 24 August to 31 August 1966 at Sunset Sound Recording Studios in Hollywood. Released in January 1967, The Doors steadily climbed the Billboard albums chart until it peaked at #2 in September 1967. It was helped considerably the success of the single "Light My Fire". Although now regarded as a classic, The Doors' first single "Break On Through (To the Other Side)" only went to #126 on the Billboard singles chart. On the other hand, "Light My Fire" would go all the way to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, where it stayed for three weeks.

The Doors' second album, Strange Days, was recorded between March and May 1967, and it was released in September 1967. Strange Days performed extremely well, going to #3 on the Billboard albums chart. It produced two hit singles: "People are Strange," which went to #12 on the Billboard singles chart and "Love Me Two Times," which went to #25 on the Billboard singles chart.

The Doors' third album, Waiting for the Sun, would see tensions begin developing within the band, as Jim Morrison's dependence on drugs and alcohol grew. Most notably, producer Paul Rothschild and the other members of The Doors opposed recording the entirety of Jim Morrison's epic suite of poems "Celebration of the Lizard" for the album. In the end one portion of "Celebration of the Lizard," the song "Not to Touch the Earth," did appear on Waiting for the Sun. Regardless, Waiting for the Sun proved very successful upon its release in July 1968. It went to #1 on the Billboard albums chart. It also produced one hit single, "Hello, I Love You," which went to #1 on the Billboard singles chart.

In December 1968 The Doors released the single "Touch Me," which went to #3 on the Billboard singles chart. It would be included on the group's fourth album The Soft Parade. The album was recorded from July 1968 to May 1969 and released in July 1969. The album departed from previous Doors albums in two respects. The first was the inclusion of both brass and string sections, a sharp contrast to the more basic approach of their earlier albums. The second was the appearance of individual writing credits. On the first three albums the songs were simply credited to The Doors. The Soft Parade peak at #6 on the Billboard albums chart.

It was on 1 March 1969, prior to the release of The Soft Parade, that The Doors gave what is likely their most notorious concert. At the concert the Dade County Sheriff's office alleged that Jim Morrison had exposed himself to the audience and issued a warrant for his arrest on 9 March 1969. In September 1970 Mr. Morrison would be sentenced to six months in prison and a $500 fine. He remained free on a $50,000 bond, awaiting an appeal. Jim Morrison would die before the matter was ever resolved. Regardless, Ray Mazarek, Robby Krieger, and John Densmore have all stated that Jim Morrison never exposed himself.

The Doors' fifth album, Hard Rock Café/Morrison Hotel (side one was titled Hard Rock Café and side two was titled Morrison Hotel) was mostly recorded in November 1969 and released in February 1970. Hard Rock Café/Morrison Hotel produced no hit singles ("You Make Me Real" peaked at #50 on the singles chart), but the album did very well. It peaked at #4 on the Billboard albums chart. The Doors' first live album, Absolutely Live, was released the following July.

Unfortunately, while The Doors continued to be a successful recording act, their days of performing live with Jim Morrison would be numbered. On 12 December 1970, midway through a performance at the warehouse in New Orleans,  Jim Morrison smashed a hole in the stage with the microphone and then simply sat down and refused to perform for the rest of the concert. After the show John Densmore, Robby Krieger, and Ray Manzarek agreed that they would no longer perform live as Jim Morrison had simply become too unpredictable.

It was from December 1970 to January 1971 that The Doors recorded their sixth studio album, L. A. Woman. It was their final album with Jim Morrison, who would die on 3 July 1971. L. A. Woman did well, going to #9 on the albums chart. It also produced two hit singles: "Love Her Madly," which went to #11 on the Billboard singles chart and "Riders of the Storm," which went to #11 on the singles chart.

As mentioned above, Jim Morrison died on 3 July 1971. The remaining members of The Doors discussed replacing him with a new lead vocalist, but ultimately they decided to remain a trio with Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger taking over the vocals. The Doors recorded their first album without Jim Morrison, Other Voices, from June to August 1971. Unfortunately Other Voices did not meet with the success of The Doors' earlier albums. It went to #31 on the Billboard albums chart. Its single, "Tightrope Ride," only went to #71.

The Doors' final album (unless one counts An American Prayer, in which the remaining Doors recorded backing tracks for Jim Morrison's recitation of his poetry), Full Circle, was recorded in the spring of 1972. It peaked at #68 on the Billboard albums chart. One of its singles, "The Mosquito," peaked at #92. "Get Up and Dance" did not even chart. It was then in 1973 that The Doors disbanded.

Following the break up of The Doors, Ray Manzarek released his first solo album, The Golden Scarab, in 1973. His second solo album, The Whole Thing Started with Rock & Roll Now It's Out of Control, was released in 1974. The album included Joe Walsh on guitar, Flo & Eddie providing backing vocals (on the song "The Whole Thing Started with Rock and Roll Now It's Out of Control"), and Patti Smith (providing vocals on "I Wake up Screaming").

Afterwards Ray Manzarek formed the supergroup Nite City with Paul Warren on guitar, Nigel Harrison on bass, Jimmy Hunter on drums, Noah James on vocals, and himself on keyboards an vocals. Nite City released their eponymous debut album in 1977. A second album, Golden Days Diamond Night, was released in 1978, without Noah James on vocals. In 1978 An American Prayer was released, with the reunited Doors providing backing tracks to Jim Morrison's poetry.

Ray Manzarek produced X's first four albums: Los Angeles (1980), Wild Gift (1981), Under the Big Black Sun (1982), and  More Fun in the New World (1983). In 1983 Ray Manzarek released a rock adaptation of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana. In 1987 he produced Echo & The Bunnymen's cover of The Doors' "People are Strange" for the film The Lost Boys (1987). He also provided keyboards for the track. In 1989 he produced The Escape Club's cove of The Doors' "20th Century Fox". In 1995 he worked with Prong on their cover of The Doors' Strange Days for the 1995 film of the same name.

Over the years Mr. Manzarek would occasionally reunite with the remaining members of The Doors. They reunited for the first time since An American Prayer when The Doors were inducted into the Rock and' Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. They reunited again in 1997 to complete Jim Morrison's unfinished  "Orange County Suite" for a Doors boxed set. In 2000 they reunited for a performance on VH1's Storytellers and again that year for the Doors tribute album Stoned Immaculate: The Music of The Doors. They reunited one last time  in 2011 for Re:GENERATION music project, a documentary which followed various artists collaborating with producers DJ Premier, Mark Ronson, Skrillex, Pretty Lights, and The Crystal Method. The Doors collaborated with Skrillex on the track "Breakn' a Sweat," which also sampled a Jim Morrison interview from the Sixties.

In 2002 Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger reunited to form a band generally referred to as "Manzrek-Krieger". Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger maintained that they had invited John Densmore to be a part of the band, although Mr. Densmore has said otherwise. They had initially meant to perform under the name "The Doors of the 21st Century," but were prevented from continuing to do so because of legal reasons. They have then performed as variously as D21C, Riders on the Storm, Manzarek-Krieger, and simply Ray Manzrek and Robby Krieger of The Doors. Over the years Stewart Copeland, Angelo Barbera, Ian Astbury, Brett Scallions, Miljenko Matijevic, Ty Dennis, Phil Chen, and Dave Brock have performed with them. Manzarek-Krieger exclusively performed Doors material. Sadly, the band would come to an end with Ray Manzarek's death.

Ray Manzarek also released more solo albums. He released Love Her Madly in 2006. He collaborated with  slide guitarist Roy Rogers on the albums Ballads Before The Rain (2008) and Translucent Blues (2011).

In addition to his music, Ray Manzarek also wrote books. His biography, Light My Fire: My Life with The Doors, came out in 1998. In 2001 he published The Poet in Exile, a novel that examines the urban legend that Jim Morrison faked his death. In 2006 he published Snake Moon, a novel set during the War Between the States and dealing with ghosts.

In my humble opinion, Ray Manzarek was one of the greatest keyboardist in rock music, if not the greatest. Indeed, as The Doors did not have a regular bassist, it was often the case that Mr. Manzarek would play a keyboard bass with one hand while playing an organ with the other. To me it is impossible to think of The Doors without thinking of Ray Manzarek's keyboard work. Indeed, it is Mr. Manzarek's singular organ playing that opens "Light My Fire," for many the quintessential Doors track. He provided an emulation of rain with his electric piano in the song "Riders on the Storm." Mr. Manzarek's piano also provides much of the mood for the song "L. A. Woman." For me, however, the stand out track for Ray Manzarek's keyboard work will always be "People Are Strange (also my favourite Doors song)." It is the jangly sound of Ray Manzarek's piano that give the song much of its creepiness, the perfect soundtrack for things that go bump in the night. Of course, Ray Manzarek was also a talented producer. It is in a large part because of him that X's first four albums sound as good as they do.

In the end, while many, perhaps most, people are drawn to The Doors because of Jim Morrison, for me it was mostly Ray Manzarek's keyboard work that made me a Doors fan. He was a skilled keyboardist who brought with him influences from such diverse sources as jazz, blues, Bach, Dvorak, and others. In the end he made The Doors sound unlike any other rock band in the Sixties. While Robby Krieger and John Densmore also made their contributions, I think the argument can be made that The Doors would not be The Doors without Ray Manzarek. He was the only possible keyboardist for the band.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Christine White Passes On

Christine White, an actress who made frequent guest appearances on American television in the Fifties, died 14 April 2013 at the age of 86. She may be best known for playing the wife of Robert Wilson (played by William Shatner), the frantic passenger who believes he has seen a gremlin on the wing of a plane in the classic Twilight Zone episode "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet."

Christine White was born on 4 May 1926 in Washington, D.C. She studied at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she graduated with a degree in English in 1947. After graduation she moved to New York City to pursue a career in acting. She made her television debut in an episode of The Web in 1952. During the Fifties she made guest appearances on such shows as Hallmark Hall of Fame,  Father Knows Best,  M SquadAlfred Hitchcock PresentsSuspicion, Man Without a Gun, State TrooperHave Gun - Will Travel, Alcoa Theatre, The Ann Sothern Show, The David Niven ShowPerry MasonThe UntouchablesThe Rifleman, Bonanza, and Thriller. She made her film debut in Vice Squad (1953) and appeared in the films Man Crazy (1953), Panama Sal (1957), and Macabre (1958).

In the Sixties she was a regular on the short lived sitcom Ichabod and Me. She guest starred on the shows Bachelor Father, The Roaring 20's, Outlaws, The Twilight Zone, and The Fugitive. She retired from acting in the mid-Sixties, but appeared in the film Magnum Force (1973) and the television film James Dean in the Seventies.